Monday, December 3, 2007

Rewriting History

The liberal blogosphere is positively livid these days by the following exchange that Karl Rove had with Charlie Rose a few days ago on Rose's TV show:

Rove's suggestion that the Congress' vote to authorize (pdf) the president "use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary" to counter the perceived threat of Saddam Hussein's Iraq somehow "pushed things along" faster than the administration would have liked is simply ludicrous on the face of it. And he has rightly taken much heat for this claim.

Today Rove had to answer for that claim most explicitly on Fox News of all places, a video of which encounter can be found on the Huffington Post. It's great fun, though rather peculiar watching Rove attempt to rebut a counter claim by Ari Fleischer by insisting that Rove was an administration insider whereas Fleischer, presumably was not. Talk about rewriting history. A nice bonus is watching Fox host Chris Wallace trying desperately to change the topic (well aware, it seems, of how ridiculous Rove was sounding).

What to me is interesting in all this is the way Rove is trying to spin his statements. He's placing most of his emphasis on the claim that Congress (which, on the Senate side was nominally Democratic) hurried through an Iraq resolution before the Bush Administration was ready for it, while expending very little effort justifying the more subtle claim that the authorization in question somehow forced the Administration's hand (probably because it's a pretty ludicrous claim).

Now, in all honestly, I am inclined to believe that some members of the administration (though I doubt all) did, in fact, want for the vote to occur after the elections. But the notion that they wanted this to be the case to avoid a "politicized" vote is simply ludicrous, coming from an administration that has sought to squeeze every possible ounce of political advantage from the events of September 11, 2001. As I've written already below, it is very likely there were some in the political wing (and I suspect Rove was among them) who wanted to head into the 2002 elections without such a vote so that they could run a campaign based on the theme that only Republicans were prepared to do what was necessary to defend the country from the menace represented by Saddam Hussein. Having the war authorization vote take place before the elections would neutralize that message to a certain extent, since the president could no longer hit the campaign trail asking voters to elect Republicans so that his hands might no longer be tied and he be allowed to do what was necessary to secure the nation. In fact, even after the vote took place, that message was still central and critical to be GOP's campaign strategy. One need only witness what the GOP did to GA, senator Max Cleland to see how this played out in the field.

So my message to rove, is this: cute, nice try, but too clever by half.

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